Blue Rose Code return to Glasgow, with live music to make your heart soar and your feet move (once again) to get hip to the beat.
Blue Rose Code’s two night live return in Glasgow, saw a first acoustic night, followed by a second sold out night, with the full band. At The Barrier were in attendance on the second night, which miraculously witnesses Glasgow’s The Glee Club transformed by Blue Rose Code, into an exhilarating combination, of a rock and soul revue, and late night jazz club. Quite fitting, when you realise that the Club sits on the hallowed ground of the iconic long departed Glasgow Apollo venue.
Opening proceedings is Scott Ashworth, a very talented Central Scotland based singer/songwriter. Scott was a musician in the RAF, and his connected songs, Things That I Have Seen/Drifting Away, eloquently give voice to the experience of being a veteran, “ ….back before things I have seen came to town…”.
The Devil Don’t Deserve Me, is an infectious blues song, in the style of Robert Johnson, with a great chopping rhythm and story telling vocals.
Scott plays a very moving, The Letter, borne out of recent events in Afghanistan, with money raised from sales going to the veterans charity Combat Stress, which provides metal health support. You can find more details here.
Scott is halfway through recording his new album Ghosts and Broken Men, definitely an album to look out for when it’s released.
When Blue Rose Code hit the stage, the energy in the room crackles, with the anticipation of what is to come. Blue Rose Code is a musical collective, based around the superb songwriting, vocals, and sheer musicality of Ross Wilson. Tonight Ross’s band features some of the very best contemporary jazz musicians around, who provide a musical setting, that fully unleashes the Caledonian soul and jazz heart, that drives so many of Ross’s songs.
Stuart Brown on drums, Paul Harrison, keyboards, Gus Stirrat, bass, and Ben MacDonald on guitar, are joined early on in the set by the superlative saxophone playing of Konrad Wiszniewski. Together they give Ebb and Flow a real jazz swing, and when the song reaches an electrifying musical crescendo, the audience spontaneously applaud. Its clear everyone here is so glad to have Ross and Blue Rose Code back playing live.
Ross generously acknowledges, from the stage, that this is probably most people’s first gig back, and names the anxiety in the air that can be sensed. “It means so much that you have come out tonight”.
(I Wish You) Peace In Your Heart, Ross describes as writing for everyone, when we went into the second lockdown. Accompanied by Paul’s poignant piano, the words ring out with a beautiful empathy. When Ross sings the words, “If nobody told you today that they love you, my brother. I’ll make a start. I love you. And I wish you peace in your heart”, it feels so apposite, and speaks to what we have needed more than ever, over the last 18 months.
Ldn City Lights has Ross improvising with the song’s words, and asking the audience, and band, if they should go for one more chorus. It brings to mind Van Morrison, at his vocally improvising finest, on the live It’s Too Late To Stop Now album.
The Wild Atlantic Way, written for Ross’s daughter, sees the band in the introductory instrumental section, creating an atmospheric cinematic like soundscape. The final chorus is extended with just Ross’s voice and guitar and keyboards, and then Ross’s unaccompanied voice, with the audience applauding, as the words cascade from the stage.
Ross changes around the set at several points, with the band quite touchingly, smiling, laughing, and catching up. Taking risks with the music is a quality that imbues any Blue Rose Code live performance, and underlines the authenticity of every note played.
To The Shore, has Ross and the band driving the song to the point that it becomes an intense wall of sound emanating from the stage. As Konrad’s thrilling saxophone solo flies out and inhabits every corner of the venue, it could almost be jazz fusion legends, Weather Report, up on the stage. Together with Ben’s closing majestic guitar solo, this is a set highlight.
The shimmering Starlit, from the most recent album, With Healings Of The Deepest Kind, Ross introduces, by sharing that over the last 18 months, he has reflected on looking for connection, and concluded “I believe in this, I believe in you”, dedicating the song to Davie Ferguson, and to everyone who has been lost.
Edina, with Paul’s sympathetic piano accompaniment, allows the words to really breathe, and for the line “everywhere I go I hold your sorrow in my bones” to fully land, and resonate for all of us that seek healing. Before playing Grateful, Ross thanks and dedicates the song to Gavin Hastie. Gavin is at the centre of Blue Rose Code HQ, and made possible Ross’s excellent live streams during lockdown. A very well deserved thank you.
A joyous (This Is Not a) Love Song concludes the set. A dancing rhythm and blues shuffle, has the audience on its feet, and as Ross leaves the stage, the band play a Booker T & the M.G.’s style coda. Just fantastic!
The encores of Silent Drums (with Konrad pulling off another impossibly good solo) and Stevie Wonder’s Keep on Running, take the whole gig quite wondrously into soul revue territory. The audience are again on their feet, and embracing all that this moment of connection through live music means.
We needed this night, and the music of Blue Rose Code, like never before. Thank you Ross, the band, and an amazing audience.
Check out this clip from Celtic Connections.